The first few days of Helen’s hospitalisation were frightening and very stressful. The following three weeks were worrying – why wasn’t she getting better faster? Why was there still an infection? But after the initial period in ICU, this was a low level buzz rather than a howling gale. Every day I got up and walked to the hospital; every day I walked past the starfish*, curled up on the uneven floor of the Hobart bay like gnarly Simpsons hands, and past the Aurora Australis – the bright, cheerful, MASSIVE orange icebreaker that the Australian Antarctic survey uses, and which is moored in Hobart harbour over their winter. They were my pals on what became a grim and repetitive trudge.
Then one day, I got up and took a slightly different route, and it was late July, and the sunshine struck the snow at the top of Kunanyi, the mountain which overlooks Hobart. ‘Kunanyi’ is one of the few words left known of the language of the indigenous Tasmanian population, because they were largely wiped out by a combination of (probably mostly accidental) disease and (probably mostly deliberate) genocide; I didn’t know that at the time, I just called it “Mount Wellington” even thought I knew that was a fucking ignorant thing to do and there was probably some history I was avoiding learning about. Generally, I had a pretty rosy picture of Tasmania, because let’s be honest, it is a stunningly beautiful place; it was only weeks later that I watched Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette and learned about the way it treated gay people, even very recently; and a year later, around the time the Tasmania-set Nightingale was released, I learned about the more recent history of Port Arthur. Tasmania is very, very beautiful, but it has some very, very heavy shit very, very close to the surface.
Even if I didn’t know Kunanyi’s name, seeing the sun shine on the snow at the same time as it shone on my face felt like a moment of Spring. When you’re constantly dealing with minor storms, ones that come out of nowhere and knock you over, you have strategies for lashing your shit down and making sure your windows don’t break. So when a real storm comes, you know pretty much what to do; you lash your shit down and board your windows up and try not to die. But it’s tiring to do that again and again; and it’s even more tiring when a real storm is trying to pull your roof off; and it’s nice to have a little sun on your face.
So this is for the Aurora Australis, soon to be decommissioned; for Kunanyi, one of the last landmarks of a decimated and mistreated people; and for the Spring.
Next week, I’m blowing into town! So gird yourself. Until then, you can read about all the songs from Year of The Bird here and pre-order the album at https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-3. You can find Year of The Bird Volumes 1 and 2 at your favourite online music purchasing place, or Bandcamp.
*or seastars, if you prefer